Excerpt from Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Joseph Anton

A Memoir

by Salman Rushdie

Joseph Anton
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2012, 656 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2013, 656 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

And by that destiny to perform an act
Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come
In yours and my discharge.

—William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Prologue
The First Blackbird

Afterwards, when the world was exploding around him and the lethal blackbirds were massing on the climbing frame in the school playground, he felt annoyed with himself for forgetting the name of the BBC reporter, a woman, who had told him that his old life was over and a new, darker existence was about to begin. She had called him at home on his private line without explaining how she got the number. "How does it feel," she asked him, "to know that you have just been sentenced to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini?" It was a sunny Tuesday in London but the question shut out the light. This is what he said, without really knowing what he was saying: "It doesn't feel good." This is what he thought: I'm a dead man. He wondered how many days he had left to live and thought the answer was probably a single-digit number. He put down the telephone and ran down the stairs from his workroom at the top of the narrow Islington row house where he lived. The living room windows had wooden shutters and, absurdly, he closed and barred them. Then he locked the front door.

It was Valentine's Day but he hadn't been getting on with his wife, the American novelist Marianne Wiggins. Six days earlier she had told him she was unhappy in the marriage, that she " didn't feel good around him anymore," even though they had been married for little more than a year, and he, too, already knew it had been a mistake. Now she was staring at him as he moved nervously around the house, drawing curtains, checking window bolts, his body galvanized by the news as if an electric current were passing through it, and he had to explain to her what was happening. She reacted well, beginning to discuss what they should do next. She used the word "we." That was courageous.

A car arrived at the house, sent by CBS television. He had an appointment at the American network's studios in Bowater House, Knightsbridge, to appear live, by satellite link, on its morning show. "I should go," he said. "It's live television. I can't just not show up."

Later that morning the memorial service for his friend Bruce Chatwin was to be held at the Orthodox church on Moscow Road in Bayswater. Less than two years earlier he had celebrated his fortieth birthday at Homer End, Bruce's house in Oxfordshire. Now Bruce was dead of AIDS, and death had arrived at his own door as well. "What about the memorial," his wife asked. He didn't have an answer for her. He unlocked the front door, went outside, got into the car and was driven away, and although he did not know it then, so that the moment of leaving his home did not feel unusually freighted with meaning, he would not go back to that house, his home for five years, until three years later, by which time it was no longer his.

The children in the classroom in Bodega Bay, California, sing a sad nonsense song. She combed her hair but once a year, ristle-te, rostle-te, mo, mo, mo. Outside the school a cold wind is blowing. A single blackbird flies down from the sky and settles on the climbing frame in the playground. The children's song is a roundelay. It begins but it doesn't end. It just goes round and round. With every stroke she shed a tear, ristle-te, rostle-te, heybombosity, knickety-knackety, retroquo-quality, willoby-wallaby, mo, mo, mo. There are four blackbirds on the climbing frame, and then a fifth arrives. Inside the school the children are singing. Now there are hundreds of blackbirds on the climbing frame and thousands more birds fill the sky, like a plague of Egypt. A song has begun, to which there is no end.

Excerpted from Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie. Copyright © 2012 by Salman Rushdie. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Day Literature Made Headlines

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.